The launching of National Cervical Cancer Screening Program in Lesotho
The Kingdom of Lesotho launched its National Cervical Cancer Screening Program on the 30th January 2013 at Sankatana Centre of Excellence in Maseru, with the assistance of the American People, through funding from the United States for International Development (USAID), and in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and EGPAF. The inauguration also celebrated a very important day which is celebrated every year on the 04th February, World Cancer Day, under the theme of “Know the fact about Cancer”. The event was launched by the Honorable Minister of Health, Dr Pinkie Rosemary Manamolela.
In her statement, Dr. Manamolela, indicated that Lesotho now faces a huge burden of non- communicable diseases, of which cervical cancer forms a significant part. It is estimated that cervical cancer is responsible for 4% of the mortality rate amongst women in the country. There are approximately 35 new cases per 100 000 of females being diagnosed with cervical cancer in Lesotho per year.
The screening program at Sankatana Centre will have huge benefits for Lesotho. “The centre will help Lesotho to save about 9000 US$ the Government uses to treat each cancer patient in South Africa and will also help to establish sustainable prevention strategies to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer through the implementation of evidence based strategies for early detection and treatment” said Dr. Pinkie Manamolela.
She urged all to put heads and hands together to tackle the challenges head-on and indicated that the Ministry of Health will continue to emphasize information dissemination to the community and mobilize support from development partners to ensure that everybody is reached with one message.
In his remarks, Mr. Charles Lyons, the CEO and President in EGPAF, indicated that early diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer helps to save lives of women and preserve the gains we have made in HIV. He indicated that working towards the goal of an HIV-free generations will combat all HIV and AIDS related disease to keep family well and healthy. He emphasized that EGPAF developed the Centre with the purpose of providing human resource support, building park homes where services and training will take place, proving medical equipment and supplies and establishing an electronic medical record keeping system. Speaking at the same occasion, the WHO Representative to Lesotho, Dr. Jacob Mufunda, emphasized that the comprehensive approach to cancer control encompasses all the steps from primary prevention with vaccines and secondary prevention, that is screening for and management of precancerous lesions, to treatment and palliative care with radiotherapy, within the context of continuum of care. Dr. Mufunda pointed out that since cancers affect children, families and the community, there is a dire need to act to reduce morbidity and mortality from cervical cancer. Dr. Mufunda concluded that the WHO in Africa region is advocating for a comprehensive approach to cancer prevention and control that encompasses prevention, screening, management of precancer-ous lesions and treatment and proper palliative care using radiotherapy, a programme in the pipeline with support from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The U.S. Charge d’ Affaires, David J. McCrane, stressed that there is a need for a national scale up of cervical cancer screening in women living with HIV, and women in the reproductive age group as cervical cancer still remains the leading cause of cancer related mortality in HIV infected Basotho women. He indicated that the rate of cervical cancer and HIV will be reduced significantly by 2015 when combined with the laudable national rollout of the human papillomavirus vaccine program by the Government of Lesotho.
Mr McCrane promised to continue to collaborate with the Government of Lesotho and private sector partners in establishing programs to build the capacity of healthcare managers and workers to provide HIV services. The center, with continued support from the United States government over the next two years, through the strengthening Clinical services project, will also train local Basotho healthcare workers to provide these services. He concluded that the United States government is proud to support this innovative approach as it embodies the concepts of country ownership, local capacity building strategic investments.